Local councils are generally not known for their exciting politics or their policies that make the headlines. Our work is more often associated with garbage pickups, pothole repairs, and weird spat, like the one Jackie Weaver was famous for.
But local government is also the place of community representation. Perhaps more than Westminster, our councils are representative of the diverse communities that make up the UK. As counselors born in Romania, Italy, France and the UK, we are living examples.
Unfortunately, this representation does not go further. In England and Northern Ireland many of our local residents are excluded from democratic life. Despite paying housing tax, using utilities and working for the benefit of society, thousands of residents born abroad and not from EU countries, Ireland or of the Commonwealth, are not entitled to vote in local elections or to represent their community. .
The council tax bill that we send does not discriminate. No matter where they were born, our residents will have to pay. Those who cannot vote are losing their voice over the provision of services offered by local councils – from green spaces to community centers, and transport links to social care and COVID recovery programs. These affect us all, no matter where we come from, so why don’t all residents have a say in how their community and services are run?
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As councilors, we believe that the right to vote in local elections should be based on where you live, not where you were born. We need all residents to have a voice in order to foster a healthy democracy. It is right that those who pay have a say.
In Wales and Scotland residency-based voting rights are already in place – it’s time for England and Northern Ireland to follow suit.
A residence-based voting system would also help clarify the eligibility rules for voters. As candidates in local elections, we have all supported voter registration sessions encouraging people to register to vote and have ourselves encountered the current complexities over who can and cannot vote, depending on their nationality or nationality. their place of birth.
The draft law on elections currently under consideration in parliament risks making the situation even more complex. He proposes that only EU citizens with a pre-established or established status retain the right to vote in local elections. EU citizens entering the UK under the new immigration system will not have the right to vote, unless they come from a country that has entered into a bilateral agreement with the UK United on the right to vote – currently only Spain, Portugal, Poland and Luxembourg have obtained these agreements.
This means that voter registration will require knowing not only a person’s nationality but also their status in the UK, the date of their arrival and whether or not the country they are from has a bilateral agreement with them. the United Kingdom.
This level of complexity and the new criteria will discourage residents from registering to vote and complicate the registration process for everyone involved in maintaining our healthy democracy, from our residents to those who work as election administration officers. .
Alternatively, the âone rule for allâ approach of a residence-based right to vote means that the right to vote would depend on residence. This would increase voter turnout and encourage more people to get involved in decisions that affect their local communities.
As advisers proud to represent migrant communities, we believe the UK government should reconsider the current approach to the Election Bill and instead pursue an approach more befitting a country seeking to pursue a UK global agenda outside of the EU. It seems fitting that a holistic approach to Britain comes with the recognition of all residents who call the UK home, no matter what country they were born in. Britain’s strength has always been its global perspective and bringing more people to our local democratic process can only strengthen that and make the most of the diversity that exists within our communities.
Residence-based voting rights are already in place in many countries around the world. it makesIt hardly makes sense that in England and Northern Ireland some non-UK residents could vote (those in the Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland or the EU with settlement or pre-settlement status) but those in other parts of the world cannot. We live in multicultural and diverse communities and our local democratic systems should reflect this.
As councilors, we represent all of our local communities and strongly believe that the right to vote should be extended to all residents for local elections. We call on the UK government to amend the Elections Bill to deliver a fairer voting system that gives everyone a voice and strengthens local democracy.
By Councilors Alexandrine Kantor (Liberal Democrat, French and British, South Oxfordshire District Council), Dr Alexandra Bulat (Labor, Romanian and British, Cambridgeshire County Council), Gio Spinella (Conservative, Italian and British, London Borough of Camden) and Catherine Braun (Green, British, Stroud District Council).